The primary goal of the Laboratory is to understand biological processes at the molecular level through the application of a wide range of methods based on physics, chemistry and genetics. We study the structure of proteins, nucleic acids and membranes and how they interact to form macromolecular assemblies, organelles and viruses. We aim to understand the mechanisms and control of gene expression, the three-dimensional organization of cells, and how basic biological processes are integrated in whole organisms. Such understanding at every level from molecules to animals is essential to tackle human disease.
We investigate specific problems in human health and disease when our expertise is particularly suitable, and provide training in research methods for students, postdoctoral scientists and sabbatical visitors at all stages in their careers. The cross-fertilization between basic biology and human disease is illustrated by the importance of myelomas and leukaemias for research in molecular immunology and by the way in which recent advances in understanding neurodegenerative diseases and cancer are revolutionising diagnosis and treatment.
A key feature of the Laboratory is that the permanent staff represent a broad spectrum of expertise which ranges from biology and genetics through biochemistry, chemistry and physics to mathematics. This ensures that advice is close at hand to individuals pursuing their own projects. The research is carried out by many small groups, mostly of four to five people and none larger than about a dozen, each under the leadership of a senior member of the scientific staff. The lack of a rigid organisational structure and of a rigid hierarchy ensures that experience is shared throughout.
A visitor may work with anyone whose skills are needed to solve the problem in hand. Resources for the support of the scientific programmes are organised so that maximum flexibility of deployment can be achieved and maintained throughout the financial year. Our overall policy is thus to provide an intellectual environment and a sense of community which encourages and enables all the members of the Laboratory to achieve their full potential.
The Laboratory encourages the transfer of knowledge and know-how about particular advances, techniques and ideas through lectures, courses, collaborations, patents, licences and company start-ups.
The Laboratory is divided administratively into the Divisions of Structural Studies, Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry (PNAC), Cell Biology and Neurobiology. However, scientific collaboration between the different Divisions is extensive, and fluctuating associations between individual staff members are used to tackle problems of common interest.
At present there are 61 group leaders (of whom 39 are tenured and 4 Emeritus Scientists), and about 200 other scientists (students, postdoctoral fellows, MRC funded postdoctoral scientists and sabbatical visitors), as well as 128 research, technical and administrative supporting staff.
The Laboratory has a number of central facilities which include: technical instrumentation and electronics workshops, a photography and illustration department, a central stores, tissue culture and bacteriological media kitchens, computing facilities, a library and a staff restaurant. In addition, the Laboratory is supported in all aspects of administration and other services by the MRC Centre which is housed alongside the LMB.